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UCLA BASKETBALL

Only game for Bruins is waiting

UCLA is predicted to get a No. 7 or No. 8 NCAA seeding after dismal effort against Oregon in Pac-10 tournament.

March 11, 2011|By Ben Bolch
  • UCLA's Joshua Smith, left, and Reeves Nelson sit on the bench during the second half of the Bruins' 76-59 loss to Oregon in the Pac-10 tournament quarterfinals Thursday at Staples Center.
UCLA's Joshua Smith, left, and Reeves Nelson sit on the bench during… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )

Details matter this time of year.

UCLA didn't take care of the ones that mattered in the Pacific Life Pac-10 tournament, reducing the Bruins to spectators until next week.

Not that they necessarily planned to watch the rest of the proceedings after getting bounced by Oregon on Thursday in a 17-point quarterfinal loss.

"I'm going to go focus on some homework," freshman center Joshua Smith said in a disconsolate UCLA locker room at Staples Center.

At this point, the Bruins are a study in letdowns. Coach Ben Howland said his team would gather on campus Friday to watch video of its worst defeat of the season before resuming practice, presumably with more effort than it expended against the Ducks.

"We'll have a hell of a practice on Saturday," Howland said, "then we'll see what happens on Sunday."

UCLA was all over the map Friday as far as NCAA tournament projections. Joe Lunardi, ESPN's "bracketologist," gave the Bruins a No. 7 seeding and shipped them to Charlotte, N.C., for a first-round game against Villanova. Ratings Percentage Index guru Jerry Palm gave UCLA a No. 8 seeding and had the Bruins playing Missouri in Cleveland.

Junior guard Lazeric Jones was probably rooting for a trip home. The Chicago native played in front of his parents as a Bruin for the first time Thursday after they had flown to Los Angeles for the Pac-10 tournament, and he would surely welcome the chance for a do-over at the United Center after making only three of 11 shots.

Jones has struggled with his shooting touch the last four games, combining to make six of 29 attempts (20.7%). He said the ruptured tendon in the middle finger of his right hand no longer bothered him but acknowledged that wasn't the case with his sprained left wrist, which remains heavily wrapped.

"My wrist has hurt at times," Jones said, "but I can't make any excuses."

The Bruins need a mental bandage for the lapses that continue to plague them 32 games into the season. Sophomore forward Reeves Nelson, UCLA's leading scorer, was a no-show in the first half against Oregon except during an all-too-visible blunder in which he was one of six Bruins on the court coming out of a timeout.

"I told Tyler Lamb I was coming in for him," Nelson said, "but I guess he didn't hear me, and he came out at the same time I did. I was inbounding the ball, so I didn't look down the court to see how many players were there. It was a miscommunication."

UCLA also couldn't shake its habit of coming out slowly against more lightly regarded teams. They had been able to recover for much of the season before quacking against the Ducks.

"We've had games where we came out sluggish in the past," Jones said, "but this time of the year you can't do that."

While acknowledging that he felt "terrible" in the wake of such a poor showing, junior guard Malcolm Lee said the Bruins could channel that sentiment into improved effort and intensity next week.

"We just have to remember how this moment feels right now," Lee said, "only next time if we feel like this we're not going to have another game to make it up."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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